VARIOUS: In The Naked City (Label: Kent)

VARIOUS: In The Naked City

Kent’s latest themed compilation takes New York City as its focal point, though, for the Naked City (a nickname from a popular 60s TV cops show) you could substitute any major urban centre that acts as a magnet for society’s flotsam and jetsam and optimistic wannabees. But it’s New York, more than any other place, that has a unique gravity and that fact is reflected in the number of popular songs that either take the Big Apple as a literal or an implied focus, and this CD offers 24 great examples from the soul genre. What, though, makes this album so attractive is that the compilers (Mick Patrick and Tony Rounce) have gone for less obvious items. Naturally, we get songs like ‘Spanish Harlem’ and ‘On Broadway’ but in the “secondary” versions from Aretha Franklin and The Cookies respectively. Other “big city chestnuts” on the set are ‘Up On The Roof” and ‘Uptown’, but, again, rather than the well-known and/original versions, here the artists are Ralfi Pagan and Little Eva – making the album that bit more intriguing – an intrigue accentuated by lesser-known recordings from people like the Drifters (‘Up In The Streets Of Harlem’), Walter Jackson (‘No Butterflies’), the Tymes (‘Street Talk’) and Chuck Jackson (‘Big New York’). Other goodies include Audrey Freeman’s ‘Three Rooms’ (covered in the UK in the 60s by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers) and Dee Clark’s ‘In My Apartment’. Good, too, to have Jerry Butler’s reading of Randy Newman’s classic tenement life saga ‘I Don’ Want To Hear It Anymore’ and Barry Darvell’s Drifters’ pastiche ‘I Found A Daisy In The City’ if only for the fact that his backing band are the wonderfully named Hash Brown and His Orchestra. Personal favourite amongst the 24 is Colette Kelly’s jazz-infected ‘City Of Fools’. The original Stax/Volt original is hugely collectable and possesses a unique sound not usually associated with the Memphis label ‘cos it was recorded in Baltimore and licensed to Stax. It is, though, just one treasure amongst many.
(BB) 4/5